We think watching media with your children is not only great fun, but a very important learning experience. Images, sights and sounds help connect us with the multitude of unique habitats and habits the world over. But we are a TV free family and instead, choose for ourselves which resources, films and documentaries we watch.
Why TV free? We notice that many things intended for children are dumbed down or simplified in a way that insults the intelligence of a child. There is also a huge hidden danger of subliminal messages (watch for rhythmic droning words, blinking lights and mesmerizing pictures) in children's shows and advertizing. There are undesirable images and messages of prejudice, fear and hate, that we work hard to keep out of our children's natural environment. We are happy to have our children protected from the excesses of consumerism. And we want our children to be independent, creative and free thinkers who are not influenced by mediocre ideas in the main stream.
You may not have a TV free house, but you can encourage your child to spend time in a variety of quality ways. When there are many exciting options available, TV can take its proper place, as just one of those options.
Most adults have to re-learn how to play, and our children are great teachers. Free play develops imagination and creativity. Role playing games allow us to think through many options, make strategies and problem solve. When we practice play with our children, our creativy increases in other areas of our lives – a win, win situation. Our own work becomes easier as inspiration becomes one step nearer!
Here are some ideas and activities to explore together:
Arts and crafts: draw together with basic pens, pencils, markers, or crayons on blank paper, play guess the picture, imagine a story and illustrate it as you go, make a maze, outline a figure with dots and connect them, draw animals and make them a house, alternate who puts features on a person, design a machine, cut things up with scissor, use glue, make a cardboard box house to sit in, or a small house for a toy, decorate your art with glitter, stickers, confetti shapes, paint, etc. Use play dough and a plastic knife,cookie cutters and plastic animals. You can also do more advanced projects such as paper mache, felting, candle making,sewing, stringing beads, making origami, rubber stamping, knitting or build something with wood.
Easy science projects: You can do these in your kitchen, bathroom or outdoors. Corn starch and water make a great textured goop to explore, baking soda and vinegar make fun reactions,balloons, paper airplanes or ping pong balls and a hair drier or fan, food coloring and hot/cold water, bubble solution with a range of small toys,bubble wands or straws. You can sprout seeds, make cuttings, plant a garden, dig in the dirt, play with water or create a sand box.
Spend time in nature: walk in the park, hike, have a game of ball or visit a playground. You can point out flowers and trees that you know, watch birds and animals, look for beautiful rocks and great views. Bring a camera and take pictures of things you like.
Learn a new language together: Label things around your house where you can all see them and use them through the day. If your child can't read yet there will still be benefit from identifying the letter group with the object. Put the labels in as many languages as you can, the more the better.
Music: sing songs together, listen to music, dance, read a rhythmic poem, story or nursery rhyme, play a clapping game or use role play and pantomime to make an action story.
When you're ready to be entertained by quality media, sit down together to watch something you'll all enjoy. There are many fun documentaries that you can search out, based on interest. Think of science and nature, animals, travel, art, music from around the world, watch sports or ballet, find unusual talents such as shadow dancing, hand painting, top spinning, take a virtual factory or farm tours, learn how things are made, or be inspired by magic.
Lastly, when you have time to spend, give your full attention to the play of the moment. Your attention is what creates the quality moments your child will carry through the rest of the day and beyond. And, some of the best games will be what your child wanders off to find on her very own, with no prompting!